The licensing industry is continually being reshaped to better align with consumer demands and shifts in the global marketplace. Much of this change is being built on fresh ideas from both veterans and newcomers to licensing.
To better understand the latter, we recently spoke with Louisa Skevington, licensing coordinator, Rocket Licensing to get her perspective on becoming established in the field and uncovering new perspectives on the industry.
Skevington is also a committee member of the Licensing International U.K. Young Professionals Network. In this interview, Skevington discussed her dual roles and how the early stages of her career are shaping her views on the industry.
License Global: What do you look for in a licensing partner?
Skevington: At Rocket, we look for licensees who understand our brands and have the resources and specialism to deliver products into relevant areas of the market. We look for partners who can design, develop and distribute innovative products that reflect the brand’s core values, themes and target demographic, to ultimately generate strong positive brand awareness and commercial return. Creative product development is also vital to ensure that products stand out on the shelf and engages consumers.
What are some methods you use to identify potential partners?
In Rocket’s analysis of brands, we identify target product categories, retail distribution and consumers, and then approach licensees whose products can match these targets. We look at a licensee’s current portfolio of brands and products (doesn’t necessarily need to be licensed), as well as distribution and demographics, to see how our brand would fit with theirs.
For example, we signed up Ancestors of Dover for their first ever license with “Horrible Histories,” as we saw its heritage sector gift ranges as perfectly suited to this educational children’s brand. Likewise, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar in 2019, we identified specialist “pregnancy to preschool” retailer JoJo Maman Bébé as an ideal partner for Eric Carle’s classic property and went on to secure a direct-to-retail deal for a five-piece babywear range, promoted alongside a range of The Very Hungry Caterpillar product in store. Through asking licensees to put together detailed proposals, and sometimes to mockup designs, we are better able to assess their understanding of, and vision for, our brands.
What role have trade shows played in your strategy for licensees?
Licensing trade shows such as Brand Licensing Europe and Licensing Expo act as key touch points in the year for meeting and updating both existing and new licensees. Rocket’s stand at BLE to showcase our brands and attract new business effectively, and this year we are excited to have an additional presence as part of BLE’s Publishing Activation.
How do you see the licensing industry changing in the next five years?
I see the licensing industry adapting in response to changing viewing and shopping habits. With the rise of various streaming channels like YouTube, Netflix and more, licensed brands will be emerging from new and varied platforms. However, as the TV and film landscape gets increasingly crowded and fast-moving, I also see a consistent and continued demand for classic, evergreen brands to balance this.
With Amazon already the No. 1 retailer for licensed product in the U.K., distribution of licensed product is likely to increasingly shift to online, while the high street will look to offer something special, by way of cross-category activations and brand tie-ins. As well as traditional product licensing, the focus will continue to be placed on brand/fashion collaborations and experiential events to promote brands.
This year Rocket Licensing is putting on The Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed events at both the Eden Project in Cornwall and the Royal Horticultural Society’s summer gardens and flower shows, and this wider sharing of brands in relevant partnerships will continue to grow.
As a committee member of the Licensing International U.K. Young Professionals Network, what advice do you have for young people starting their career in licensing?
Licensing is a dynamic industry that needs to stay relevant. Therefore I would encourage young people to offer fresh perspectives as much as possible. Secondly, make the most of opportunities-go to meetings, trade shows and events and embrace the breadth and variety of the role you are in, because you will learn so much so quickly.
What were some of the biggest challenges and rewards you faced entering the licensing industry?
One of the first challenges, particularly in an agency setting like Rocket, was getting up to speed with such a diverse range of brands-from evergreen pre-school brands like The Very Hungry Caterpillar to adult tv and movie properties like Rocky and Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Likewise, familiarizing yourself with the market around a diverse range of product categories is a big learning curve, but you do get a real sense of reward when you see product and campaigns that you have worked on in a store.
As part of a small team, multiple rewards come alongside a varied workload, providing good exposure at events and meetings as well as influence in new projects that we take on. In this industry, you have the opportunity to meet a fantastic network of people behind the products and brands and being part of the YPN Committee this year has enabled this further.
To hear more from licensing thought leaders such as Skevington, register for BLE 2019 and visit the Rocket Licensing team at booth B301.